It's tough to make a comedy about suicide. It's the rare film that can take such a serious subject, hold it up to a funhouse mirror and still find an audience. Look at Harold and Maude or Heathers, two films that stirred up their own brand of controversy. And now there's Wristcutters: A Love Story, which was shot in 2005 and, though it was nominated for a Grand Jury prize at Sundance, has been a long time coming to theaters.
In fact, lead actor Patrick Fugit was starting to think it would never come out at all. 'Yeah,' he says, 'I've thought that about my last three or four movies, but especially this one. I've really cared about how this one turns out.'
Fugit, who got his start as the young music journalist in Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical Almost Famous, plays Zia, a young man who, at the film's outset, meticulously cleans his apartment before slitting his wrists in the bathtub. And here's why the movie has 'cult classic' written all over it.Wristcutters isn't the kind of suicide movie where the lead is saved, goes to therapy and support groups and eventually finds value in life again. No, Zia cuts his wrists—and dies. But that's just the beginning, because in Goran Dukic's Wristcutters, when you kill yourself, you end up in a strange afterlife whose denizens are all suicides. It's basically like the life you just left, only crappier. So, what the hell, right? Or, maybe, what the purgatory?'It's a love story that takes place in the suicide afterlife. With a road trip,' says Fugit. 'It's a dark comedy, and when I heard the story, I got excited. Maybe I'm a freak or something.'Zia scores a job at Kamikaze Pizzeria and becomes friends with Eugene (Shea Whigham), a Russian rocker who offed himself onstage. When Zia finds out the girlfriend he killed himself over committed suicide shortly after he did, the two jump into Eugene's battered old car—which has its own metaphysical qualities—to track her down. Along the way, they meet a number of strange characters, including Kneller (Tom Waits), who runs a campsite for people who've done themselves in, and Mikal (Shannyn Sossaman), who thinks she's in the wrong place and is seeking the man behind the curtain to make it right.
Fugit's not the suicidal type, but as an actor he had to get himself to a place where he was committed to doing the deed. 'That was tough,' he says. 'I wanted it to be very clear to me what Zia went through before he got to this afterlife world. I, myself, have never gotten to that point where I'd actually contemplated going through with it, so I thought about what could happen in my life that would make it not worth living. Try to imagine the mental breakdown, how crazy that must be, to get to the point where you actually commit to doing something to yourself.'But Fugit says that the movie really isn't about suicide. 'The movie takes the idea that they've all committed suicide in stride. That's the reality,' he says. 'These people make light of it, because what the hell else are you going to do? I was focused on enjoying the fact that these people can come together and enjoy each other's company, that Zia can find Mical, that love can happen in a place like that, where all this other shit is going down.' Of course, that hasn't stopped some people from thinking that Wristcutters might glorify suicide. Fugit says he gets it, but he thinks that, maybe, just maybe, those folks have yet to actually catch the film. 'People are funny things,' he says. 'Some people stay mad for no good reason. A lot of these people haven't seen the movie, they don't know anyone who's seen the movie, and they've developed a hatred for it based on what they hear and see on the Internet. They get all uppity when they should just see the fuckin' thing, man.'